Financial administrator of Oasis Centre in Wisbech stole �20k from charity to tide over family budget

THE financial administrator of the Oasis Centre in Wisbech stole almost �20,000 from the charity to tide over her family’s budget.

Andrea Smith pocketed cash and destroyed cheques, and after failing to pay money into the centre’s bank account she tampered with paperwork to try and cover her tracks.

But missing documents raised suspicions and investigations by the centre manager Chris Stevens showed that thousands of pounds was missing.

Smith, 46, of Tinkers Drove, Wisbech, broke down when she was arrested and today appeared before Fenland magistrates, where she admitted stealing �5,849.30 in cash and �13,546.32 in cheques between March 2007 and May of this year.

Prosecuting, Andrea Fawcett said: “The centre is a community and learning facility which provides various activities for the residents of Wisbech.

“The centre had not realised anything was untoward until February 2009, when a cheque paid into the centre did not appear to have been cashed.

“There was also concern about a missing paying-in book that Smith had been using to bank money, the book was never found.

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“In May 2009 Chris Stevens became concerned that a number of paying slips completed by Smith were shown to be for cheques only, with no cash banked. This was unusual because there were regular groups using the facility who paid cash. Smith was asked for an explanation, but could give none.”

Around September of last year, Smith claimed that someone must have stolen money from her desk.

Inquiries with the bank revealed that money entered on two paying-in slips had not reached the bank, and two slips had been tampered with. Smith had traced a bank stamp to make it appear that money had been banked.

When arrested, Smith broke down and admitted spending the stolen cash and disposing of cheques.

Mitigating, solicitor Michael Judkins said: “She planned to borrow the cash on a temporary basis to help tide over the family budget, intending to put it back. When she did not pay cash into the bank, she held back the cheques and later destroyed them.

“She used the money for food shopping, it was not used for any luxury or extravaganza whatsoever.”

The centre is currently in the process of having the destroyed cheques reissued, but around �1,900 cannot be replaced.

Smith was committed to Cambridge Crown Court for sentence and for Proceeds of Crime confiscation proceedings.

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